Inbox and Environment News: Issue 270

July 3 - 9, 2016: Issue 270

National Tree Day in Pittwater

– July 31, 2016
Whitney Reserve, Mona Vale & Careel Bay Reserve, Avalon

Participate in National Tree Day event from 9am-1pm and help enhance Pittwater’s natural environment. National Tree Day is Australia’s largest nature event. It is organised by Planet Ark and calls on community members to plant trees at selected sites to improve the local green canopy. 

Trees cool and beautify neighbourhoods, bring nature to communities and have environmental benefits for years to come. More info available 

Where: • Whitney Reserve, access from Whitney Road or Suzanne Street, Mona Vale and • Careel Bay Reserve North (near dog exercise area). Meet at the corner of Etival St and Barrenjoey Rd, Avalon. 

Please wear suitable clothes such as long sleeves, trousers, sturdy shoes, a hat and bring water to drink. Council will provide refreshments and free native plants for you to take home and plant in your own garden.

RSVP: Helena Dewis on 9970 1367 or

Plastic Free July

The challenge is quite simple...attempt to refuse single-use plastic during July. 

Plastic Free July aims to raise awareness of the problems and amount of single-use disposable plastic in our lives and challenges people to do something about it. You can sign up for a day, a week or the whole month and try to refuse ALL single-use plastic or try the TOP 4: plastic bags, water bottles, takeaway coffee cups and straws.

By 2050 its estimated there will be more plastic than fish in the world's oceans. Most comes from land and was was once in our hands. Refuse single-use plastic and together lets keep our oceans clean. Join over 40,000 people, schools and organisations from 90 countries and let those same hands be part of the solution.

Accept the challenge and find out more here:

Nominations open for the 2016 NSW Green Globe Awards

Media release: NSW OEH

Nominations are now open for the 17th Green Globe Awards celebrating NSW's exceptional environmental achievements.

Ian Hunter, Deputy Chief Executive, NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) said the Green Globe Awards are NSW's biggest sustainability awards, with ten award categories covering a range of resource, business, community and individual sustainability initiatives.

"The Awards are a chance to showcase NSW's green game changers nationally, internationally and celebrate the people behind the successes," Mr Hunter said.

"They provide a platform for participants to showcase innovative work, initiate projects, network and reach new audiences."

Previous winner, Chris Bins of City of Sydney, said their Green Globe Award had opened further opportunities to share their experiences and give them licence to push harder into the new horizons of sustainability.

"We've offered our Green Globe experience as an open invitation for discussion and knowledge sharing," Mr Bins said.

Brookfarm, winner of the 2015 Small Business Sustainability and Premier's Award for Environmental Excellence said since winning both awards they have implemented a rainwater harvesting system and energy management initiatives to meet new environmental certification goals.

Winner of last year's Young Sustainability Champion Award, Seda Hamoud, said her award has given her school Environmental Club an even stronger cross-school component and has allowed for greater membership.

Robin Mellon, Green Globe Award judging panel chair of chairs said the judges are excited to see this year's nominations and how nominees are reducing their environmental impacts in a diverse collection of ways.

"We look forward to seeing how their initiatives are really 'leading the pack' around NSW, Australia and hopefully around the world and how their actions are having a positive effect on businesses, people and communities," Mr Mellon said.

The NSW Green Globe Award winners set the gold standard in becoming a cleaner and greener state.

The Awards will be judged by a panel of independent experts and presented at a gala night at The Art Gallery of New South Wales in late October 2016.

Nominations are open until 11 July 2016. To enter your project, program or nominate, please go to:


Would you like to know more about our local birds and explore our bushland reserves? Then join us on one of our bird walks:

21 August, Chiltern Track, Ingleside (birds and wildflowers)

25 September, Irrawong Reserve, North Narrabeen

27 November, Warriewood Wetlands

Most walks start at 7.30 or 8am and last a couple of hours. Bring binoculars and morning tea for afterwards if you like. for details of each walk.

Koala Spotted Crossing The Road Near Queanbeyan

Media release: 28 June 2016 - NSW OEH

Photo: Koala spotted crossing the road near Queanbeyan

Koalas have been spotted crossing Captains Flat Road in Cuumbeun Nature Reserve this month delighting passing motorists but also serving as a reminder to slow down on the roads.

Susannah Power from the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) said the first sighting was reported by a member of the public on 30 May and since then NPWS have received details of two more sightings in the reserve just east of Queanbeyan.

"Some passing motorists have been extremely lucky to get photos of the animal as it crosses the road, climbs the embankment and up a nearby tree," said Ms Power.

"We're not sure if this particular animal is male or female but we know it's rare and very exciting to see a koala in the reserve.

"These sightings are really encouraging and I'm sure they have taken many drivers by surprise - but they also serve as a real reminder to slow down on rural roads.

"With wildlife about it's important for people passing through to take care and for park visitors to minimise their impact on this species habitat.

"The increased number of sightings also highlights the importance of this relatively small reserve in providing habitat for this iconic species," said Ms Power.

NPWS plan to undertake surveys at Cuumbean in the coming months to get a much better picture of the population this reserve supports.

"Until then we encourage people to keep reporting their sightings to the NPWS Queanbeyan Office and remind park users and motorists to please take care near the Reserve."

For more information on Cuumbeun Nature Reserve visit the NPWSwebsite.

Camden Gasfields Petition

AGL still have 96 coal seam gas production wells in South Western Sydney, surrounding Camden, some between 40m - 200m from family homes and schools.

While the Eastern suburbs, electorates for Mike Baird and Malcolm Turnbull MP, have zero.

As the largest growth center in Sydney there are current plans to build 35,000 new homes as close as 20m from AGLs existing coal seam gas wells.

AGL plans to stop all production in this area by 2023.  This is not acceptable. These families do not deserve 7 more years of these horrific health effects.  35,000 new homes in the same area is a health epidemic in the making.

Australian Mothers-Against-Gas started this petition with a single signature, now they need more support to help protect Camden and shut down those wells NOW.

Petition here

Katandra Sanctuary

Katandra is a sanctuary for flora and fauna where the wildflowers are their most colourful during spring but all year round there are opportunities for bird watching. The sanctuary covers 12 hectares and is situated on the Ingleside/Warriewood escarpment. Choose to follow a short walk of about 1km or the longer 2km track through rainforest remnants with creeks and fern-fringed pools. Visit:

An estimated 50 million plastic bags end up in our waterways and marine environment in Australia every year.

Plastic pollution is killing our marine life. 30% of the world’s turtles and 90% of seabird species have now ingested plastic debris. We have to act now to clean up our oceans.

Petition - Plastic bag in mangroves - Careel Creek, June, 2016

Bush Regeneration And Envirofun Weekend 

On: August 26-28, 2016
At: Pittwater YHA, Morning Bay

Volunteer for two mornings’ bush regeneration and receive free accommodation, two evening meals, two BBQ lunches and two morning teas and free use of kayaks over the weekend of 26 to 28 August. Alternatively come for a Saturday or Sunday morning bush regeneration and enjoy a morning tea and BBQ lunch and kayak. It is only a $20 contribution ($50 nonrefundable booking fee with a $30 refund on arrival) for a weekend of great company, food and activities. 

Bookings essential: 9999 5748 Email: 

A Pittwater YHA activity in partnership with: • Pittwater Natural Heritage Association • National Parks and Wildlife Service • Northern Beaches Council • supported by the Greater Sydney Local Land Service • with funding from the Australian Government and the NSW Government.

First signs of healing in the Antarctic ozone layer

June 30, 2016

A simulation of the Antarctic ozone hole, made from data taken on October 22, 2015. Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center (edited by MIT News)

Scientists at MIT and elsewhere have identified the "first fingerprints of healing" of the Antarctic ozone layer, published today in the journal Science.

The team found that the September ozone hole has shrunk by more than 4 million square kilometers -- about half the area of the contiguous United States -- since 2000, when ozone depletion was at its peak. The team also showed for the first time that this recovery has slowed somewhat at times, due to the effects of volcanic eruptions from year to year. Overall, however, the ozone hole appears to be on a healing path.

The authors used "fingerprints" of the ozone changes with season and altitude to attribute the ozone's recovery to the continuing decline of atmospheric chlorine originating from chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). These chemical compounds were once emitted by dry cleaning processes, old refrigerators, and aerosols such as hairspray. In 1987, virtually every country in the world signed on to the Montreal Protocol in a concerted effort to ban the use of CFCs and repair the ozone hole.

"We can now be confident that the things we've done have put the planet on a path to heal," says lead author Susan Solomon, the Ellen Swallow Richards Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry and Climate Science at MIT. "Which is pretty good for us, isn't it? Aren't we amazing humans, that we did something that created a situation that we decided collectively, as a world, 'Let's get rid of these molecules'? We got rid of them, and now we're seeing the planet respond."

Solomon's co-authors include Diane Ivy, research scientist in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, along with researchers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, and the University of Leeds in the U.K.

Signs before spring

The ozone hole was first discovered using ground-based data that began in the 1950s. Around the mid-1980s, scientists from the British Antarctic survey noticed that the October total ozone was dropping. From then on, scientists worldwide typically tracked ozone depletion using October measurements of Antarctic ozone.

Ozone is sensitive not just to chlorine, but also to temperature and sunlight. Chlorine eats away at ozone, but only if light is present and if the atmosphere is cold enough to create polar stratospheric clouds on which chlorine chemistry can occur -- a relationship that Solomon was first to characterize in 1986. Measurements have shown that ozone depletion starts each year in late August, as Antarctica emerges from its dark winter, and the hole is fully formed by early October.

Solomon and her colleagues believed they would get a clearer picture of chlorine's effects by looking earlier in the year, at ozone levels in September, when cold winter temperatures still prevail and the ozone hole is opening up. The team showed that as the chlorine has decreased, the rate at which the hole opens up in September has slowed down.

"I think people, myself included, had been too focused on October, because that's when the ozone hole is enormous, in its full glory," Solomon says. "But October is also subject to the slings and arrows of other things that vary, like slight changes in meteorology. September is a better time to look because chlorine chemistry is firmly in control of the rate at which the hole forms at that time of year. That point hasn't really been made strongly in the past."

A healing trend

The researchers tracked the yearly opening of the Antarctic ozone hole in the month of September, from 2000 to 2015. They analyzed ozone measurements taken from weather balloons and satellites, as well as satellite measurements of sulfur dioxide emitted by volcanoes, which can also enhance ozone depletion. And, they tracked meteorological changes, such as temperature and wind, which can shift the ozone hole back and forth.

They then compared their yearly September ozone measurements with model simulations that predict ozone levels based on the amount of chlorine that scientists have estimated to be present in the atmosphere from year to year. The researchers found that the ozone hole has declined compared to its peak size in 2000, shrinking by more than 4 million square kilometers by 2015. They further found that this decline matched the model's predictions, and that more than half the shrinkage was due solely to the reduction in atmospheric chlorine.

"It's been interesting to think about this in a different month, and looking in September was a novel way," Ivy says. "It showed we can actually see a chemical fingerprint, which is sensitive to the levels of chlorine, finally emerging as a sign of recovery."

The team did observe an important outlier in the trend: In 2015, the ozone hole reached a record size, despite the fact that atmospheric chlorine continued to drop. In response, scientists had questioned whether any healing could be determined. Going through the data, however, Solomon and her colleagues realized that the 2015 spike in ozone depletion was due primarily to the eruption of the Chilean volcano Calbuco. Volcanoes don't inject significant chlorine into the stratosphere but they do increase small particles, which increase the amount of polar stratospheric clouds with which the human-made chlorine reacts.

As chlorine levels continue to dissipate from the atmosphere, Solomon sees no reason why, barring future volcanic eruptions, the ozone hole shouldn't shrink and eventually close permanently by midcentury.

"What's exciting for me personally is, this brings so much of my own work over 30 years full circle," says Solomon, whose research into chlorine and ozone spurred the Montreal Protocol. "Science was helpful in showing the path, diplomats and countries and industry were incredibly able in charting a pathway out of these molecules, and now we've actually seen the planet starting to get better. It's a wonderful thing."

This research was supported, in part, by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy.

Journal Reference:

Solomon et al. Emergence of Healing in the Antarctic Ozone Layer. Science, 2016

Southern Snowy Mountains Aboriginal Community To Jointly Manage Kosciuszko National Park

Media release: 27 June 2016
The Southern Snowy Mountains Aboriginal Community now has stronger links with the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) in the management of Kosciuszko National Park and reserves in the Southern Ranges Region under a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).

In signing the MOU last week Tom Bagnat, Director Mountains and Metro branch with NPWS, said the agreement formally acknowledges both parties commitment to working together to care for the park's Aboriginal places and spiritual and cultural values.

"This MOU provides Original Owners of Monaro-Ngarigo decent with an opportunity to reconnect to country and a clearly defined role in identifying and conserving Aboriginal cultural heritage in the southern section of the park," Mr Bagnat said.

"The MOU covers the area south of Tolbar Road near Lake Eucumbene to the Victorian border, Country that includes important cultural sites and places of cultural significance within the landscapes and waterways.
"This cooperative approach to park management means decisions around the conservation of this cultural heritage will be more holistic and reflective of the Original Owner's aspirations.

"Under the agreement an Executive Advisory Committee made up of community members will be established to advise NPWS on other aspects of park management including tourism, fire and pest management operations.

"It's taken a long time to produce the MOU and I would like to thank all involved. It's through this process that a genuine and respectful partnership has developed," said Mr Bagnat.

The agreement was signed at a celebration on 25 June 2016 in Jindabyne with members of the Monaro Ngarigo community and NPWS.
"What this MOU represents is much more than an agreement to work collaboratively, it symbolises a shared vision to manage Kosciuszko National Park's unique values to deliver benefits not only to Country but to people and communities," Mr Bagnat said.

This MOU with the Monaro Ngarigo community is similar to an agreement already in place with the Tumut Brungle Gundagai Aboriginal Area Community.

Above: MOU signing with Southern Snowy Mountains Aboriginal Community

L-R: front row Auntie Diana's Grandson, Auntie Diana Davidson, Auntie Rae Solomon- Stewart, Auntie Rachel Mullett.
Back row: Mick Pettitt Southern Ranges Regional Manager, Dave Darlington former (now retired) NPWS Southern Ranges Regional Manager, Tom Bagnat NPWS Director Metropolitan and Mountains Branch

Another Bucket Of Coal: From Liverpool Plains Youth

June 28, 2016
The Liverpool Plains Youth have got a new song for Australia. 
Hey mining! Leave the plains alone! No coal mining in Australia's food bowl!  

The Australian Bird Feeding & Watering Study

The Australian Bird Feeding and Watering Study is a citizen science initiative being conducted by researchers at Deakin University and Griffith University. Our interests are the interactions people have with birds in their own backyards, as this can have a huge impact on bird diversity and abundance. One of the most common ways people interact with birds is through providing food and water.

Why do we find this interesting? For the simple reason that we do not know how providing food and water might impacts on bird ecology and diversity in Australia. While providing food and water to birds is a popular activity, little is known about what species are attracted to these resources and why people like to provide them. Most importantly we need to understand the ecological and behavioural effects of bird feeding as almost all information from other countries regarding bird feeding simply does not apply here. We acknowledge that feeding of wild birds is an important activity for large numbers of people and that the practice may be a significant way for many to connect with nature. 

The Australian Bird Feeding and Watering Study aims to gather quantitative data on the effects of supplementary feeding and providing water for birds and the reasons why people provided food and/or water. In doing so we aim to develop purpose guidelines for people who feed birds to do so with minimum risk to birds.

If you provide food or water for birds and would like to take part in this exciting study, Sign up today! We would love to have you involved

Seaweeds Get Sick Too When They’re Stressed

01 July, 2016:  DEBORAH SMITH - UNSW

Normally harmless bacteria can cause bleaching disease in seaweeds when the "trees of the ocean" become stressed by high water temperatures, UNSW researchers have discovered.
Bleached seaweed. Image: Alexandra Campbell

Seaweeds are the “trees” of the ocean, providing vital habitat, food and shelter for many species of fish and other coastal marine organism, such as crayfish and abalone.

“A lot of attention has been paid to coral bleaching, but seaweeds are also affected by temperature-related diseases,” says study senior author UNSW’s Dr Suhelen Egan.

“In most cases, the infectious agents that cause the diseases are unknown. Improving our understanding these disease processes is not only important for maintaining a healthy marine environment; it also has economic significance, given that seaweeds are increasingly being cultivated as sources of food and feed-stock for biofuels.”

These bacteria seize the chance to cause disease when the host is stressed, in the same way that normally harmless, common bacteria can cause disease in people who have weakened immune systems.
The study, by Dr Egan’s team at the UNSW Centre of Marine Bio-Innovation, is published in the journal Environmental Microbiology

The researchers collected samples of healthy and diseased red alga, Delisea pulchra, from about 8 metres under the water at different locations on the Sydney coastline. The diseased seaweeds had undergone natural bleaching, in which areas of pigment are lost.
“Bleaching reduces the ability of the seaweed to photosynthesise and harvest energy from the sun, and to reproduce. It also makes them more susceptible to grazing by fish and other herbivores in the ocean,” says Dr Egan.
The researchers isolated microbes that were in greater abundance on the diseased seaweeds and cultured them. They then tested the ability of these microbes to cause bleaching disease in seaweeds in the laboratory.
“We were surprised to identify three very different kinds of bacteria which are usually present in low numbers on seaweeds, but which we now know can all cause the same bleaching disease,” says Dr Egan.
“We also found that the usual balance of microbes was disturbed on the diseased seaweeds, with a lower diversity of microbes present than normal.
“We believe these kinds of opportunistic pathogens are more common in marine environment than had been realised before. They seize the chance to cause disease when the host is stressed, in the same way that normally harmless, common bacteria can cause disease in people who have weakened immune systems.”
The three newly identified pathogens that cause the bleaching disease are members of the Alteromonas, Aquimarina and Agarivorans genera.

Palm Grove Nature Reserve Draft Plan: Have your say

What's this about?

Parks and reserves established under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 are required to have a plan of management. The plan provides guidance on key conservation and other values of the park, and provides directions for future management. The plan of management is a legal document and, after the plan is adopted, all operations and activities in the park must be in accordance with the plan.

At the conclusion of the public exhibition period in August 2016, all submissions will be comprehensively reviewed and input will be sought from the Central Coast Hunter Regional Advisory Committee and the National Parks and Wildlife Advisory Council.

Once this input has been received, as required by the National Parks and Wildlife Act, a final plan will be considered for adoption by the Minister for the Environment.

Have your say

Submit your feedback by 22 August 2016 via the online consultation.

Tyagarah Nature Reserve Draft Plan

What is the draft plan of management for?

Parks and reserves established under the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 are required to have a plan of management. A new draft plan for Tyagarah Nature Reserve has been prepared which will replace its existing plan. The exhibition of the draft plan provides members of the community with the opportunity to have a say in the future management directions for this reserve. Further information about Tyagarah Nature Reserve is available at the NPWS visitor website.

Have your say

Submit your written feedback on the draft plan by 22 August 2016 by using the online submission form on the Office of Environment and Heritage website, or by emailing, or by writing to:

NPWS Planner, Tyagarah Draft PoM, PO Box 1236. Coffs Harbour NSW 2450

Exhibition - Date: May. 13 - Aug. 22, 2016 Time: 9:00am — 5:00pm

Wongarbon Nature Reserve draft plan

The Wongarbon Nature Reserve draft plan of management is on public exhibition until 22 August 2016.

What is the draft plan of management for?

Parks and reserves established under the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 are required to have a plan of management. The exhibition of the draft plan provides members of the community with the opportunity to have a say in the future management directions for this reserve.

Have your say

Submit your written feedback on the draft plan by 22 August 2016 in one of the following ways:

By email: email your submission

By mail: post your written submission to:

NPWS Wongarbon POM, Planning Evaluation and Assessment Team, PO Box 1967. Hurstville BC NSW 1481

By filling out the online form on the OEH public exhibition page.

Exhibition - Date: May. 13 - Aug. 22, 2016 Time: 10:00am — 5:00pm

Report illegal dumping

NSW Government

The RIDonline website lets you report the types of waste being dumped and its GPS location. Photos of the waste can also be added to the report.

The Environment Protection Authority (EPA), councils and Regional Illegal Dumping (RID) squads will use this information to investigate and, if appropriate, issue a fine or clean-up notice.

Penalties for illegal dumping can be up to $15,000 and potential jail time for anybody caught illegally dumping within five years of a prior illegal dumping conviction.

This is the first time RIDonline has been opened to the public. Since September last year, the EPA, councils, RID squads and public land managers have used it to report more than 20,000 tonnes of illegally dumped waste across more than 70 local government areas.

The NSW Government has allocated $58 million over five years to tackle illegal dumping as part of its $465.7 million Waste Less Recycle More initiative. NSW Premier Mike Baird has also committed to reducing the volume of litter by 40%, by 2020 to help keep NSW's environment clean.

Think before you print ; A kilo of recycled paper creates around 1.8 kilograms of carbon emissions, without taking into account the emissions produced from transporting the paper. So, before you send a document to print, think about how many kilograms of carbon emissions you could save by reading it on screen.

 Australian Native Foods website:

Tackling Coastal Erosion At Lennox Head

28.06.2016: Ministerial Media Release - The Hon. Rob Stokes MP, Minister for Planning

A new plan of action to manage coastal erosion at Lennox Head has been given the green light by the NSW Government.
Ballina Shire Council’s Coastal Zone Management Plan has been certified by Planning Minister Rob Stokes and includes proposed works such as an upgrade to the Lennox Head seawall to protect the road and other public facilities. There will also be investigations into beach nourishment and ongoing monitoring at the site as part of the plan. 

Mr Stokes said Lennox Head was a designated coastal erosion hotspot in NSW, and the new plan will help the Ballina coastal community be more resilient to potential impacts and threats. 
“Erosion at Lennox Head has been recognised as a major issue, and the NSW Government is determined to ensure this is managed and the community and the environment are protected,” Mr Stokes said.
“The saltwater economy is an integral part of our way of life, and we want to ensure we have a healthy coast with thriving, resilient communities now and into the future.” 
North Coast Liberal MLC Catherine Cusack and North Coast Nationals MLC Ben Franklin both welcomed the plan. 
“This Coastal Zone Management Plan will ensure the Ballina Shire is able to look after its spectacular coastline, and be prepared for current and future threats,” Ms Cusack said. 
“Our local community is well aware of the long-running erosion issues at Lennox Head, and want something done. This plan is the solution,” Mr Franklin said. 
Ballina Shire Council’s Coastal Zone Management Plan covers the whole of the Ballina Shire coastline from Seven Mile Beach in the north to Patches Beach to the south of Richmond River was prepared by Ballina Shire Council in consultation with the local community.

Previously Unknown Global Ecological Disaster Discovered

June 28, 2016

Approximately 500,000 years after the major natural disaster at the boundary between the Permian and the Triassic another event altered the vegetation fundamentally and for longer. Credit: Graphic UZH
There have been several mass extinctions in the history of Earth with adverse consequences for the environment. Researchers from the University of Zurich have now uncovered another disaster that took place around 250 million years ago and completely changed the prevalent vegetation during the Lower Triassic.

There have been several mass extinctions in the history of Earth. One of the largest known disasters occurred around 252 million years ago at the boundary between the Permian and the Triassic. Almost all sea-dwelling species and two thirds of all reptiles and amphibians died out. Although there were also brief declines in diversity in the plant world, they recovered in the space of a few thousand years, which meant that similar conditions to before prevailed again.

Change in flora within a millennia
Researchers from the Institute and Museum of Paleontology at the University of Zurich have now discovered another previously unknown ecological crisis on a similar scale in the Lower Triassic. The team headed by Peter A. Hochuli and Hugo Bucher revealed that another event altered the vegetation fundamentally and for longer approximately 500,000 years after the major natural disaster at the boundary between the Permian and the Triassic.

The scientists studied sediments towering over 400 meters high from North-Eastern Greenland. Carbon isotope curves suggest that the prevalent seed ferns and conifers were replaced by spore plants in the space of a few millennia. To this day, certain spore plants like ferns are still famous for their ability to survive hostile conditions better than more highly developed plants.

Catastrophic ecological upheaval changes plant world
Until now, it was assumed that the environment gradually recovered during the Lower Triassic 252.4 to 247.8 million years ago. "The drastic, simultaneous changes in flora and the composition of the carbon isotopes indicate that the actual upheaval in the vegetation didn't take place until the Lower Triassic, i.e. around 500,000 years later than previously assumed," explains Hochuli.

The researchers didn't just observe the mass death of vegetation in Greenland; they already discovered the first indications of this floral shift a few years ago in sediment samples from Pakistan. Moreover, the latest datings of volcanic ash by Australian scientists show that the most significant change in the plant world did not happen until a few millennia after the Permian/Triassic boundary. During this period, the indigenous glossopteris seed plant group died out, an event that had previously been dated back to the Permian. Thanks to these findings, the sediment sequences of the supercontinent Gondwana in the southern hemisphere now need to be reinterpreted.

Crisis probably triggered by volcanic eruptions
What caused this newly described natural disaster remains unclear. "However, we see a link between this previously unknown global event and the enormous volcanic eruptions we know from the Lower Triassic in what's now Siberia," explains Bucher, Director of UZH's Institute and Museum of Paleontology.

Peter A. Hochuli, Anna Sanson-Barrera, Elke Schneebeli-Hermann, Hugo Bucher. Severest crisis overlooked—Worst disruption of terrestrial environments postdates the Permian–Triassic mass extinction.Scientific Reports, 2016; 6: 28372 DOI: 10.1038/srep28372

Bushcare in Pittwater 

For further information or to confirm the meeting details for below groups, please contact Council's Bushcare Officer on 9970 1367
Council's Cooee Newsletter - May- June 2016 HERE

Where we work                      Which day                              What time 

Angophora Reserve             3rd Sunday                         8:30 - 11:30am 
Avalon Dunes                        1st Sunday                         8:30 - 11:30am 
Avalon Golf Course              2nd Wednesday                3 - 5:30pm 
Careel Creek                         4th Saturday                      8:30 - 11:30am 
Toongari Reserve                 3rd Saturday                      9 - 12noon (8 - 11am in summer) 
Bangalley Headland            2nd Sunday                         9 to 12noon 

Winnererremy Bay                 4th Sunday                        9 to 12noon 

North Bilgola Beach              3rd Monday                        9 - 12noon 
Algona Reserve                     1st Saturday                      9 - 12noon 
Plateau Park                          1st Friday                           8:30 - 11:30am 

Church Point     
Browns Bay Reserve             1st Tuesday                      9 - 12noon 
McCarrs Creek Reserve       Contact Bushcare Officer     To be confirmed 

Old Wharf Reserve                 3rd Saturday                     8 - 11am 

Kundibah Reserve                   4th Sunday                      8:30 - 11:30am 

Mona Vale     
Mona Vale Beach Basin          1st Saturday                   8 - 11am 
Mona Vale Dunes                     2nd Saturday+3rd Thursday     8:30 - 11:30am 

Bungan Beach                          4th Sunday                      9 - 12noon 
Crescent Reserve                    3rd Sunday                      9 - 12noon 
North Newport Beach              4th Saturday                    8:30 - 11:30am 
Porter Reserve                          2nd Saturday                  8 - 11am 

North Narrabeen     
Irrawong Reserve                     3rd Saturday                   2 - 5pm 

Palm Beach     
North Palm Beach Dunes      3rd Saturday                    9 - 12noon 

Scotland Island     
Catherine Park                          2nd Sunday                     10 - 12:30pm 
Elizabeth Park                           1st Saturday                       9 - 12noon 
Pathilda Reserve                      3rd Saturday                      9 - 12noon 

Warriewood Wetlands             1st Sunday                         8:30 - 11:30am 

Whale Beach     
Norma Park                               1st Friday                            9 - 12noon 

Western Foreshores     
Coopers Point, Elvina Bay      2nd Sunday                        10 - 1pm 
Rocky Point, Elvina Bay           1st Monday                            9 - 12noon

Benign Bacteria Block Mosquitoes From Transmitting Zika, Chikungunya Viruses

July, 2, 2016

A strain of Aedes aegypti mosquitos feed from a membrane of blood in Matthew Aliota's research lab insectary.Credit: Jeff Miller

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have confirmed that a benign bacterium called Wolbachia pipientis can completely block transmission of Zika virus in Aedes aegypti, the mosquito species responsible for passing the virus to humans.

Matthew Aliota, a scientist at the UW-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine (SVM) and first author of the paper -- published today (July 1, 2016) in the journal Scientific Reports -- says the bacteria could present a "novel biological control mechanism," aiding efforts to stop the spread of Zika virus.

Thirty-nine countries and territories in the Americas have been affected by the Zika epidemic, and it is expected that at least 4 million people will be infected by the end of the year. Scientists believe the virus is responsible for a host of brain defects in developing fetuses, including microcephaly, and has contributed to an uptick in cases of a neurological disorder called Guillain-Barre syndrome. There are not yet any approved Zika virus vaccines or antiviral medications, and ongoing mosquito control strategies have not been adequate to contain the spread of the virus.

Researchers led by Jorge Osorio, a UW-Madison professor of pathobiological sciences, and Scott O'Neill of the the Eliminate Dengue Program (EDP) and Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, are already releasing mosquitoes harboring the Wolbachia bacterium in pilot studies in Colombia, Brazil, Australia, Vietnam and Indonesia to help control the spread of dengue virus. Their work is supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

An important feature of Wolbachia is that it is self-sustainable, making it a very low-cost approach for controlling mosquito-borne viral diseases that are affecting many tropical countries around the world.

"In two of our initial study sites in Australia, approximately 90 percent of the mosquitoes continue to be infected with Wolbachia after initial release more than six years ago" says O'Neill.

EDP has now received additional endorsement from the World Health Organization's Vector Control Advisory Group to conduct further pilot studies and scale up in endemic areas.

Wolbachia can be found in up to 60 percent of insects around the world, including butterflies and bees. While not typically found in the Aedes aegypti mosquito -- the species that also transmits dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever viruses -- O'Neill discovered in the early 1990s that Wolbachia could be introduced to the mosquito in the lab and would prevent the mosquitoes from transmitting dengue virus.

Zika virus belongs to the same family as dengue virus and Aliota and Osorio -- with co-authors Stephen Penaido at SVM and Ivan Dario Velez, at the Universidad de Antioquia in Medellin, Colombia -- asked whether Wolbachia-harboring Aedes aegypti may also be effective against Zika virus. They were also interested in studying the mechanisms behind Zika virus infection and transmission in mosquitoes.

In the study, the team infected mice with Zika virus originally isolated from a human patient and allowed mosquitoes from Medellin to feed on the mice either two or three days after they were infected. The mosquitoes were either harboring the same strain of the Wolbachia bacteria (called wMel) used in field studies or were Wolbachia-free and the mice had levels of virus in their blood similar to humans infected with Zika virus.

An additional group of mosquitoes, both wild-type and Wolbachia-infected, was allowed to feed instead from a membrane containing sheep's blood spiked with a high concentration of Zika virus, per other standard laboratory studies.

Four, seven, 10 and 17 days after the mosquitoes fed on Zika-virus-infected blood the researchers tested them for Zika virus infection, assessed whether the virus had disseminated -- or spread to other tissues in the mosquito, and examined whether the virus made its way to the mosquito saliva, where it must be present to be transmitted.

"The first site of replication for arboviruses is the mosquito midgut," says Aliota. "It eventually leaves the midgut and is swept in their blood to secondary tissues and eventually to the salivary glands, where it replicates more and is eventually spit out."

They found that mosquitoes carrying Wolbachia were less likely to become infected with Zika virus after feeding on viral blood, and those that were infected were not capable of transmitting the virus in their saliva.

"We saw reduced vector competence in Aedes aegypti with Wolbachia," says Osorio, defined as the intrinsic ability of an insect to support the development or replication of a pathogen like a virus and then transmit it. "Mosquitoes with Wolbachia were less capable of harboring Zika virus, and though they do get infected with Zika, it is to a lesser extent than wild-type mosquitoes."

They also found that where mosquitoes got their blood meal -- whether from mice or the membrane -- impacted their infection and transmission status. This has implications for other laboratory-based Zika virus studies, Aliota says.

Though mice had a lower concentration of virus in their blood than the blood contained in the membrane, mosquitoes that fed on the mice were infected at higher rates than those that were membrane-fed. The levels of virus found in the mice were also more similar to those seen in human infections.

Non-Wolbachia-containing mosquitoes that acquired Zika virus from mice were also capable of transmitting the virus in a shorter number of days, and in less time than other studies have shown. Additionally, the researchers learned that a relatively low percentage of Zika-virus-transmitting mosquitoes may be sufficient to sustain an outbreak.

"A surprisingly low percentage of mosquitoes are actually capable of transmitting the virus," Aliota says, "but given the size of the outbreak, and that we think mosquitoes are the driver of the outbreak, the results were somewhat unexpected. It just goes to show you how much we still need to understand about the basic biology of this virus."

The study is one of the first to study Zika virus transmission dynamics using a living host, says Aliota.

Importantly, the team also confirmed that the strain of Wolbachia used does not impact the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is important to the success of field studies.

Once inside a mosquito, Wolbachia is passed from mother to offspring, so newborn mosquitoes will contain the bacteria and incorporate it into the wild population. EDP hopes to see greater than 80 percent of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in study areas harboring Wolbachia. According to Osorio, mosquitoes carrying Wolbachia in the study site in Medellin are close to reaching that number.

Other studies show Wolbachia prevents mosquito transmission of yellow fever virus -- which is causing an outbreak in Africa -- and, in another study published in late April in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, Aliota, Osorio and their UW-Madison and Universidad de Antioquia colleagues showed that Wolbachia prevents Colombian Aedes aegypti from transmitting chikungunya virus.

Like Zika virus, chikungunya emerged out of Africa and spread to the Americas. It is now transmitted by mosquitoes on every inhabited continent around the globe, says Aliota. The virus can cause fever, chronic joint pain, fatigue, nausea and a rash. There is no cure or specific treatment.

Aliota and Osorio continue to study Wolbachia in mosquitoes in relation to these viruses, monitoring for changes or developments that could affect ongoing field releases. So far the findings have been encouraging, Aliota says.

"Our findings are complementary to results described earlier in the month in Cell Host & Microbe by our colleagues with EDP-Brazil, which is really exciting and really promising," he says.

Matthew T. Aliota, Stephen A. Peinado, Ivan Dario Velez, Jorge E. Osorio.The wMel strain of Wolbachia Reduces Transmission of Zika virus by Aedes aegypti. Scientific Reports, 2016; 6: 28792 DOI:10.1038/srep28792

Infectious Disease Emergency Response Research Funding

01 July 2016: Media Release – NHMRC
The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has announced almost $5 million in funding that commences today for the Centre of Research Excellence in Infectious Disease Emergency Response Research.

The centre is led by Professor Sharon Lewin of the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity (Doherty Institute), a joint venture between The University of Melbourne and The Royal Melbourne Hospital.

The centre will establish the Australian Partnership for Preparedness Research on Infectious Disease Emergencies (APPRISE), a national network of leading Australian researchers that will deliver a coordinated and evidence-based response to infectious diseases.

NHMRC CEO Professor Anne Kelso said the new centre will play an important role in Australia's readiness to respond to future pandemics and other infectious disease emergencies.

“History tells us that new infectious diseases will continue to emerge but that we cannot predict when, where or how. The purpose of this significant NHMRC grant is to establish national capability to respond rapidly when such threats do emerge by undertaking the research needed to inform the public health response,” Professor Kelso said.

NHMRC has also awarded almost $10.5 million to support 15 Partnership Projects that range from optimising primary care management of knee osteoarthritis to eliminating hepatitis C transmission.

Professor Kelso said the research supported by these grants would develop practical solutions to a range of issues that affect the health and wellbeing of our community.

“These grants fund partnerships between researchers and those who deliver or make decisions about health care services. They ensure the research is designed to address important issues at the coalface of health care delivery and that the outcomes of the research are put into practice,” Professor Kelso said.

Another important initiative announced is the Targeted Call for Research into Engaging and Retaining Young Adults in Interventions to Improve Eating Behaviours and Health Outcomes. $3.5 million will be dedicated to five grants to identify effective lifestyle intervention programs for 18-24 year olds to reduce the risk of obesity.

“All grants announced today will support Australian research on some of the most urgent health issues facing our community. NHMRC is proud to support the work of these outstanding researchers and we look forward to seeing the outcomes of their research,” Professor Kelso concluded.

The funded grants are part of approximately $850 million that NHMRC will deliver to support health and medical research in Australia this year.

High-Tech Scans Spare Lymphoma Patients Side Effects Of Chemo

30 June 2016: University of Sydney
Better clinical data helps patients avoid over-treatment
People with advanced-stage Hodgkin’s lymphoma can be spared the serious side effects of chemotherapy thanks to high-tech scans that predict early response to treatment, new findings by University of Sydney scholars in collaboration with national and international partners reveal.

Published in The New England Journal of Medicine,  the authors report that patients who received standard chemotherapy without continued use of the drug Bleomycin had the same survival rates as those who received standard chemotherapy with this drug. Importantly, they were spared bleomycin’s toxic side effects on the lungs.

Research consistently confirms that treating advanced-stage Hodgkin’s lymphoma – a cancer of the lymph nodes – with chemotherapy drugs has produced high survival rates.

For example, evidence from randomised trials confirm that multidrug therapy using a combination of doxorubicin, bleomycin, vinblastine and dacarbazine (ABVD) typically yields cure rates of 70 to 80 per cent, similar to rates achieved with more complex multidrug therapies.

One exception to this conclusion is the impact of an escalated multidrug treatment using bleomycin, etoposide, doxorubicin, cyclophosphamide, vincristine, procarbazine, and prednisone (BEACOPP), with higher-than-standard doses of etoposide, doxorubicin, and cyclophosphamide.

This escalated drug regimen has been shown to yield higher progression-free survival rates than ABVD in previously untreated patients. But the benefit comes with significantly more short-term and long-term toxic effects.

Escalated BEACOPP confers a high probability of infertility, high rates of infection, prolonged fatigue and the risk of acute leukemia. In particular, bleomycin has potential to cause severe effects on the lungs, with the risk of scarring, even years later that can lead to serious breathing problems.
Due to these risks the authors of this new study wanted to assess the effect of modifying treatment by stopping bleomycin for patients who had a promising outlook and escalating treatment only for those at highest risk of the treatment not working.

Key findings
The researchers used positron emission tomography (PET) to scan more than 1200 patients with advanced Hodgkin lymphoma after they received two cycles of standard ABVD chemotherapy.

Those showing no active disease according to PET scan results were randomised into two groups – one group continued with ABVD chemotherapy (including bleomycin) while the other had (AVD) chemotherapy without bleomycin.

Patients who stopped receiving bleomycin (AVD) had the same 3-year disease progression survival rates as those who continued it (ABVD) but importantly, they were spared toxic side effects on the lungs.

Those who did not have a clear PET scan after two rounds of chemotherapy, suggesting they had a more resistant lymphoma, were given more intense chemotherapy treatment with either escalated therapy containing bleomycin, etoposide, doxorubicin, cyclophosphamide, vincristine, procarbazine, and prednisone (BEACOPP), with higher-than-standard doses of etoposide, doxorubicin, and cyclophosphamide, or BEACOPP-14 (accelerated therapy with growth hormone support).

What results mean for patient care
“This study showed we can tailor patients’ individual treatment and spare most of them from lung toxicity as well as the serious side effects and infertility consequences of intensive chemotherapy,” said the University of Sydney’s Associate Professor Judith Trotman, a study co-author. “This approach, along with a reduction in the need for radiotherapy, should substantially reduce damage to healthy tissues and the risk of second cancers caused by treatments.”

Associate Professor Trotman is also Director of the Haematology Clinical Research Unit at Concord Repatriation General Hospital, and the ALLG lead investigator for the study in Australia and New Zealand.

“The results show how PET scans can provide unique and essential information for treating clinicians to provide ‘precision’ medicine for patients,” said study co-author, Dr Michael Fulham, a clinical professor at the University of Sydney and Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. “The trial conducted in seven countries is a great example of international collaboration to improve individual patient care.”

Study leader Professor Peter Johnson from Cancer Research UK and the University of Southampton, said: “Most people who get Hodgkin’s lymphoma can be cured. In this trial more than 95 per cent are alive after three years, but we still worry about the long-term side effects of the treatments we use.

“We’re now personalising treatment based on how well it works. This is a major development for patients with Hodgkin lymphoma, setting a new standard of care”.

In a NEJM editorial accompanying the new research, Professor Nancy Bartlett from Washington University School of Medicine, St Louis said: “The elimination of bleomycin after two cycles of ABVD in patients with a negative restaging PET scan does not compromise patient outcomes and results in a modest decrease in toxic effects.

“On the basis of multiple reports showing increased toxic effects of ABVD in older patients, bleomycin can and should be eliminated in all patients older than 40 years of age who have negative PET findings after two cycles of ABVD.

“Whether or not this should now be considered the standard of care in all patients is less clear in light of the low incidence of serious toxic effects in both groups.”
Artificial pancreas likely to be available by 2018
June 30, 2016
The artificial pancreas -- a device which monitors blood glucose in patients with type 1 diabetes and then automatically adjusts levels of insulin entering the body -- is likely to be available by 2018, conclude authors of a paper in Diabetologia (the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes). Issues such as speed of action of the forms of insulin used, reliability, convenience and accuracy of glucose monitors plus cybersecurity to protect devices from hacking, are among the issues that are being addressed.

Currently available technology allows insulin pumps to deliver insulin to people with diabetes after taking a reading or readings from glucose meters, but these two components are separate. It is the joining together of both parts into a 'closed loop' that makes an artificial pancreas, explain authors Dr Roman Hovorka and Dr Hood Thabit of the University of Cambridge, UK. "In trials to date, users have been positive about how use of an artificial pancreas gives them 'time off' or a 'holiday' from their diabetes management, since the system is managing their blood sugar effectively without the need for constant monitoring by the user," they say.

One part of the clinical need for the artificial pancreas is the variability of insulin requirements between and within individuals -- on one day a person could use one third of their normal requirements, and on another 3 times what they normally would. This is dependent on the individual, their diet, their physical activity and other factors. The combination of all these factors together places a burden on people with type 1 diabetes to constantly monitor their glucose levels, to ensure they don't end up with too much blood sugar (hyperglycaemic) or more commonly, too little (hypoglycaemic). Both of these complications can cause significant damage to blood vessels and nerve endings, making complications such as cardiovascular problems more likely.

There are alternatives to the artificial pancreas, with improvements in technology in both whole pancreas transplantation and also transplants of just the beta cells from the pancreas which produce insulin. However, recipients of these transplants require drugs to supress their immune systems just as in other organ transplants. In the case of whole pancreas transplantation, major surgery is required; and in beta cell islet transplantation, the body's immune system can still attack the transplanted cells and kill off a large proportion of them (80% in some cases). The artificial pancreas of course avoids the need for major surgery and immunosuppressant drugs.

Researchers globally continue to work on a number of challenges faced by artificial pancreas technology. One such challenge is that even fast-acting insulin analogues do not reach their peak levels in the bloodstream until 0.5 to 2 hours after injection, with their effects lasting 3 to 5 hours. So this may not be fast enough for effective control in, for example, conditions of vigorous exercise. Use of the even faster acting 'insulin aspart' analogue may remove part of this problem, as could use of other forms of insulin such as inhaled insulin. Work also continues to improve the software in closed loop systems to make it as accurate as possible in blood sugar management.

A number of clinical studies have been completed using the artificial pancreas in its various forms, in various settings such as diabetes camps for children, and real life home testing. Many of these trials have shown as good or better glucose control than existing technologies (with success defined by time spent in a target range of ideal blood glucose concentrations and reduced risk of hypoglycaemia). A number of other studies are ongoing. The authors say: "Prolonged 6- to 24-month multinational closed-loop clinical trials and pivotal studies are underway or in preparation including adults and children. As closed loop devices may be vulnerable to cybersecurity threats such as interference with wireless protocols and unauthorised data retrieval, implementation of secure communications protocols is a must."

The actual timeline to availability of the artificial pancreas, as with other medical devices, encompasses regulatory approvals with reassuring attitudes of regulatory agencies such as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is currently reviewing one proposed artificial pancreas with approval possibly as soon as 2017. And a recent review by the UK National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) reported that automated closed-loop systems may be expected to appear in the (European) market by the end of 2018. The authors say: "This timeline will largely be dependent upon regulatory approvals and ensuring that infrastructures and support are in place for healthcare professionals providing clinical care. Structured education will need to continue to augment efficacy and safety."

The authors say: "Cost-effectiveness of closed-loop is to be determined to support access and reimbursement. In addition to conventional endpoints such as blood sugar control, quality of life is to be included to assess burden of disease management and hypoglycaemia. Future research may include finding out which sub-populations may benefit most from using an artificial pancreas. Research is underway to evaluate these closed-loop systems in the very young, in pregnant women with type 1 diabetes, and in hospital in-patients who are suffering episodes of hyperglycaemia."

They conclude: "Significant milestones moving the artificial pancreas from laboratory to free-living unsupervised home settings have been achieved in the past decade. Through inter-disciplinary collaboration, teams worldwide have accelerated progress and real-world closed-loop applications have been demonstrated. Given the challenges of beta-cell transplantation, closed-loop technologies are, with continuing innovation potential, destined to provide a viable alternative for existing insulin pump therapy and multiple daily insulin injections."

Hood Thabit, Roman Hovorka. Coming of age: the artificial pancreas for type 1 diabetes. Diabetologia, June 2016 DOI: 10.1007/s00125-016-4022-4

EPICentre - Visualising Big Medical Data

published June 30, 2016 by UNSW TV
The most advanced facility of its kind, UNSW's Expanded Perception and Visualisation Interaction Centre represents the next generation in medical imaging technologies. This groundbreaking new multidisciplinary Centre applies integrated design thinking and a mutlidisplinary approaches to research to enable scientists to see their research data in real time and three dimensions. MORE INFO:

Fire Discovery Sheds New Light On 'Hobbit' Demise

June 29, 2016

Dr Mike Morley, from the University of Wollongong, Australia, with a sediment sample taken from Liang Bua. The sample contains crucial new evidence that has revealed modern humans (Homo sapiens) were likely using fire at Liang Bua 41,000 years ago, narrowing the time gap between the last hobbits (Homo floresiensis) and the first modern humans at this site on the Indonesian island of Flores. The finding is extremely important in the quest to discover why and how the hobbit disappeared.
Credit: Paul Jones | University of Wollongong

Crucial new evidence has revealed modern humans (Homo sapiens) were likely using fire at Liang Bua 41,000 years ago, narrowing the time gap between the last hobbits (Homo floresiensis) and the first modern humans at this site on the Indonesian island of Flores.

The research, led by the University of Wollongong Australia (UOW) and Indonesia's National Research Centre for Archaeology and published in theJournal of Archaeological Science today (June 30, 2016), is among the earliest evidence of modern humans in Southeast Asia.

Lead author Dr Mike Morley, a research fellow and geoarchaeologist at UOW's Centre for Archaeological Science (CAS), said the find is "extremely important" in the quest to discover why and how the hobbit disappeared, around 50,000 years ago.

The story of the hobbit starts in 2003, when an international team of researchers, including those from UOW, uncovered the remains of a previously unknown species of small-statured hominins at Liang Bua. Homo floresiensis, affectionately dubbed 'the hobbit' for her tiny one-metre stature, would rewrite history books, capture imaginations around the world and go on to be dubbed 'the scientific find of the century'.

After revised dating estimates of the original hobbit skeleton -- published inNature in March -- placed the bones between 190,000 and 60,000 years old (it was previously believed to have survived on Flores until as recently as 12,000 years ago), and the most recent stone tools at 50,000 years old, a gap in the chronology of the sediment sequence opened up -- researchers had no idea what happened at the site between 46,000 and 20,000 years ago.

Dr Morley and colleagues, including CAS geoarchaeologist Professor Paul Goldberg and archaeologist Thomas Sutikna, were able to fill that gap, detailing environmental changes at the site between 190,000 and 20,000 years ago and revealing something rather unexpected: physical evidence of fire places that were used between 41,000 and 24,000 years ago, most likely by modern humans for warmth and/or cooking.

"We now know that the hobbits only survived until around 50,000 years ago at Liang Bua. We also know that modern humans arrived in Southeast Asia and Australia at least 50,000 years ago, and most likely quite a bit earlier" Dr Morley said.

"This new evidence, which is some of the earliest evidence of modern human activity in Southeast Asia, narrows the gap between the two hominin species at the site."

Given that no evidence for the use of fire by Homo floresiensis during roughly 130,000 years of presence at the site has been found, Dr Morley said modern humans are the most likely candidates for the construction of the fire places.

"Finding the fire places in such an excellent state of preservation allows insights into the behaviour of these people," he added.

Dr Morley said researchers at Liang Bua are now searching for more evidence that further closes that gap in time; evidence that could place modern humans at exactly the right place, at the right time, possibly revealing an overlap between the two species, which could have led to interaction between the two species and ultimately the hobbit's extinction.

As part of the study, Dr Morley used a technique called 'micromorphology' to examine the sediments taken from the site at a microscopic level of detail. After extracting sediment blocks from the rear of the cave (a different area from where the hobbit fossils were recovered), the samples were shipped back to UOW and wafer-thin slices, just 30microns thick (1 micron is 1000th of a millimetre), were analysed under a microscope. 

Spectroscopic analyses of the sediments were made by CAS archaeological chemist Dr Linda Prinsloo, and new radiocarbon dates were used to determine the age of each layer examined for the study.
The study, which also acts as further evidence of Homo sapiens dispersal through Southeast Asia and into Australia around 50,000 years ago, comes just weeks after UOW researchers, also from CAS, announced they had found 700,000 year old fossilised remains of what appear to be ancestors of the hobbit. The remarkable finds quash any remaining doubt that Homo floresiensis was a modern human afflicted with a disease causing the diminutive stature.

Mike W. Morley, Paul Goldberg, Thomas Sutikna, Matthew W. Tocheri, Linda C. Prinsloo, Jatmiko, E. Wahyu Saptomo, Sri Wasisto, Richard G. Roberts. Initial micromorphological results from Liang Bua, Flores (Indonesia): Site formation processes and hominin activities at the type locality of Homo floresiensis. Journal of Archaeological Science, 2016 DOI: 10.1016/j.jas.2016.06.004

Decisive Action Taken To Set Up Rookwood Cemetery For The Future 

Friday, 1 July 2016: Media Release
Minister for Lands and Water, Niall Blair, has announced the NSW Government will undertake a review of governance for the entire Rookwood Cemetery, the largest cemetery in the Southern Hemisphere.
Three trusts manage Rookwood Cemetery – the Catholic Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust, the Rookwood Necropolis Trust and the Rookwood General Cemeteries Reserve Trust.

“In 2013 the most significant reforms to the management of cemeteries and crematoria in the history of NSW were introduced – this review is the next stage of those reforms, looking at how we can best manage Rookwood Cemetery into the future,” Mr Blair said.

“I have directed Cemeteries and Crematoria NSW to oversee the review, which will consult broadly before presenting a set of recommendations on how management of Rookwood should implement the objects set out in the Cemeteries and Crematoria Act 2013, and effect good governance and respectful management of Australia’s oldest multi-faith cemetery.”

Final recommendations will be provided to the NSW Government by the end of the year.
The NSW Government has also today released the report of the independent investigation into the governance and operations of Rookwood General Cemeteries Reserve Trust, one of the three trusts which manage the Rookwood Cemetery.

Jason Masters has been appointed as administrator for 12 months to manage the affairs of the Rookwood General Cemeteries Reserve Trust, ensure ongoing operations continue, and implement the NSW Government’s response to the independent investigation.

“The NSW Government supports all of the evidence-based recommendations of this thorough and independent investigation,” Mr Blair said.

“Today draws a clear line in the sand – I have taken decisive action to address community concerns and ensure that Rookwood General Cemeteries Reserve Trust is placed on a sustainable footing into the future.”

For more information on the Rookwood Cemetery governance review, or to view the Rookwood General Cemeteries Reserve Trust investigation report and NSW Government response, visit

Ancient “Deep Skull” From Borneo Full Of Surprises

28 June, 2016:  DEBORAH SMITH - UNSW
A study of the oldest modern human remains discovered in island South-East Asia has revealed this ancient person was not related to Indigenous Australians, as originally thought. 

Niah Cave in Sarawak where the 37,000 year old Deep Skull was found in 1958. Image credit: Curnoe.

A new study of the 37,000-year old remains of the “Deep Skull” – the oldest modern human discovered in island South-East Asia – has revealed this ancient person was not related to Indigenous Australians, as had been originally thought. 

The Deep Skull was also likely to have been an older woman, rather than a teenage boy. 

The research, led by UNSW Associate Professor Darren Curnoe, represents the most detailed investigation of the ancient cranium specimen since it was found in Niah Cave in Sarawak in 1958. 
“Our analysis overturns long-held views about the early history of this region,” says Associate Professor Curnoe, Director of the UNSW Palaeontology, Geobiology and Earth Archives Research Centre (PANGEA). 

“We’ve found that these very ancient remains most closely resemble some of the Indigenous people of Borneo today, with their delicately built features and small body size, rather than Indigenous people from Australia.” 

The study, by Curnoe and researchers from the Sarawak Museum Department and Griffith University, is published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution

The Deep Skull was discovered by Tom Harrisson of the Sarawak Museum during excavations at the West Mouth of the great Niah Cave complex and was analysed by prominent British anthropologist Don Brothwell. 

In 1960, Brothwell concluded the Deep Skull belonged to an adolescent male and represented a population of early modern humans closely related, or even ancestral, to Indigenous Australians, particularly Tasmanians. 

“Brothwell’s ideas have been highly influential and stood largely untested, so we wanted to see whether they might be correct after almost six decades,” says Curnoe. 

“Our study challenges many of these old ideas. It shows the Deep Skull is from a middle-aged female rather than a teenage boy, and has few similarities to Indigenous Australians. Instead, it more closely resembles people today from more northerly parts of South-East Asia.” 

Ipoi Datan, Director of the Sarawak Museum Department says: “It is exciting to think that after almost 60 years there’s still a lot to learn from the Deep Skull – so many secrets still to be revealed. 

“Our discovery that the remains might well be the ancestors of Indigenous Bornean people is a game changer for the prehistory of South-East Asia.” 

The Deep Skull has also been a key fossil in the development of the so-called “two-layer” hypothesis in which South-East Asia is thought to have been initially settled by people related to Indigenous Australians and New Guineans, who were then replaced by farmers from southern China a few thousand years ago. 

The new study challenges this view by showing that – in Borneo at least – the earliest people to inhabit the island were much more like Indigenous people living there today rather than Indigenous Australians, and suggests long continuity through time. 

It also suggests that at least some of the Indigenous people of Borneo were not replaced by migrating farmers, but instead adopted the new farming culture when it arrived around 3,000 years ago. 

“Our work, coupled with recent genetic studies of people across South-East Asia, presents a serious challenge to the two-layer scenario for Borneo and islands further to the north,” says Curnoe. 

“We need to rethink our ideas about the region’s prehistory, which was far more complicated than we’ve appreciated until now.” 

Skating Carnival On South Brisbane Rink In 1915

Published on 27 Jun 2016 by NFSA Fims
From the National Collection c 1915. This film is silent. This short clip shows a roller skating carnival at a rink in Brisbane's South. It was produced by West's Pictures. It shows men and women, and a few children, roller skating, women playing a form of skating hockey and what appears to be a game of musical chairs.


UNSW's RoboCup Soccer World Champions Fly Out To Defend Title

The UNSW robots and their engineers - photo by Grant Turner/UNSW

UNSW's RoboCup Soccer World Champions Fly Out To Defend Title

27 June 2016:  WILSON DA SILVA - UNSW
Australia's reigning robot soccer world champions are on their way to Germany to face their arch-nemeses in what is expected to be a tough battle to retain the coveted crown in robotics and artificial intelligence.

The UNSW RoboCup team and their players: Kenji Brameld, Hayden Smith, Brad Hall, David McKinnon and Peter Schmidt. Photo: Grant Turner/Mediakoo/UNSW.

Australia’s reigning world champions of RoboCup robot soccer left on Sunday to face their arch-nemeses on home turf in Germany in what is expected to be a tough battle to retain their coveted crown in robotics and artificial intelligence.

The team of six autonomous robots and their five engineers from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) – whose teams have taken a record five trophies in the premier category, the Standard Platform League – are off to Leipzig where the annual championship is being held this week.
The team from the UNSW School of Computer Science and Engineering are the only Australians battling the 29 robot squads from 18 nations, including six elite teams from Germany. Last year, UNSW defeated Germany’s B-Human robot squad by 3-1 in a tense grand final at the RoboCup World Championship in Hefei, west of Shanghai in China.

It was their second year in a row vanquishing a German team, and now they are heading deep into enemy territory. UNSW’s five trophies place them one ahead of their arch rivals, Germany’s B-Human, which has won four RoboCup titles.

The robot players are not externally controlled and act autonomously – relying entirely on the programming and self-governing algorithms developed over the past year by their human engineers. While the competing teams of humanoid robots battle it out, engineers watch the event live, constantly referring to their laptops.

“We can listen to what they’re saying to each other, and we can see what they think is going on,” said David McKinnon, 22, a computer engineering student. “Once the game starts, we're cannot modify their behaviours in any way. But after each game we can see their mistakes, learn from them, and try to improve our play."

Hayden Smith, 23, a computer science honours student, agreed. “Our success is tied to the engineering work we've completed over the past year. There are no pep talks, we just have to make sure we’re prepared – and hold our breath.”

Again this year, Germany’s B-Human – a six-robot team run by a collaboration between the University of Bremen and DFKI (German Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence) – will be the ones to beat. They’ve won RoboCup German Open seven times, and the European Open once.

“They’ve always been in the top three and always have a very strong team,” said Brad Hall, Assistant Director of International Projects at UNSW Engineering and a staff member of the team. “We beat then last year 3-1 in the final, and the year before that 5-0 in the semi-finals. By all accounts, they are a lot stronger this year.”

The Australians can only hope their new software developed over the past year will stand them in good stead – but there’s no way to know until play begins. What makes it even harder is each winning team must share its computer code with other competitors, meaning that the champion UNSW team has had to make dramatic improvements after each world championship win.

In RoboCup’s Standard Platform League, all teams use identical robots (this year, NAO V5 humanoids made by France’s Aldebaran Robotics), forcing teams to concentrate on software development. The soccer 'pitch' itself is 10.4 metres long and 7.4 metres wide, and teams play for about 20 minutes in total, broken up into two 10 minute halves and a 10-minute half-time break.

Each year, the rules change to make the competition more challenging. This year, for example, the Mylec orange street hockey ball has been replaced by black and white foam ball, to better resemble a real soccer ball. This makes it more difficult for the robots to see and recognise the ball.
The objective of RoboCup is to have fully autonomous robot football players play against the winners of the FIFA World Cup by 2050, complying with official FIFA rules, and win a game.

The UNSW team of engineers:
• Hayden Smith (23), student, Computer Science (Honours)
• David McKinnon (22), student, Computer Engineering
• Kenneth Ng (24), student, Computer Engineering
• Peter Schmidt (27), student, Computer Science (Honours)
• Kenji Brameld (18), student, Mechatronics Engineering
• Brad Hall, team manager (UNSW staff)

The UNSW robots
The UNSW robot players are R2D2, Rey, Han, Chewie, Yoda and BB8. They are NAO V5 bipedal robots, 58 cm tall and with 21 degrees of freedom, and controlled by NaoQi middleware that interfaces with the Linux-Geode operating system.

Top: The UNSW robots and their engineers - photo by Grant Turner/UNSW.

The Great Western Woodlands

By Birdlife Australia – May 2016
The Great Western Woodlands (GWW) is a 16 million hectare swath of woodlands, mallee and heath interspersed with salt lakes, granite outcrops and in the north-west, banded ironstone formations (BIF) ranges. The GWW represents the largest intact remaining temperate woodland in the world.

In 2011, BirdLife Australia and The Nature Conservancy formed a partnership to fund and oversee a bird research and conservation project in the Great Western Woodlands. Working with teams of dedicated volunteers, systematic bird surveys are conducted, discovering information about the birds in this unique region of Western Australia. The long-term bird monitoring project is now run by volunteers from BirdLife Western Australia. 

For more information or to take part go to 

What Does The Sperm Whale Say?

June 30, 2016

Researchers using a pole to tag a sperm whale off the Azores. Credit: Rui Prieto

When a team of researchers began listening in on seven sperm whales in the waters off the Azores, they discovered that the whales' characteristic tapping sounds serve as a form of individual communication. But what are they actually saying?

"They clearly have something on their minds -- but to be perfectly honest, we haven't the faintest idea what that might be."

That is how the University of Southern Denmark marine biologists Magnus Wahlberg and Claudia Oliveira summarised their findings following their research trip to the Azores, where they ventured out to sea to attach listening instruments to seven sperm whales and subsequently attempted to analyse the strange tapping sounds they make, known as codas.

However, the biologists are not frustrated that they cannot understand the whales. In fact, they are very pleased with the outcome of their research trip to the Atlantic, because it led to a surprising new insight into the world of sperm whales:

"It is a new finding that individual sperm whales communicate with one another as individuals. Until now, biologists have believed that sperm whales communicate as a single group, in the sense that each group has their own set of vocalisations used by its members to communicate with other groups. What we discovered, however, was that individual sperm whales communicate individual messages to other individual members of the group," said Magnus Wahlberg, Associate Professor, Institute of Biology, University of Southern Denmark.

Claudia Oliveira is now at University of Azores in Portugal.

Much like Morse code, these messages consist of a series of tapping (also described as clicking) sounds in a variety of combinations, such as four long taps followed by two short ones. The scientists registered 21 different messages.

Each whale is capable of vocalising a variety of messages, some of which they use more frequently than others. For example, one message consisting of five identical tapping sounds was vocalised no less than a total of 288 times by four of the whales, while the researchers recorded two of them vocalising a message composed of three identical tapping sounds 183 times.

In total they recorded 802 of these vocalisations from five of the whales, while the remaining two stayed quiet. Colleagues from Aarhus University and the University of the Azores accompanied the two researchers on the trip.

"One could imagine that the vocalisations give information about who each of the individuals in the group are, whether they are heading for the surface or depths or if they have found food. It could be mothers calling to their young or females inviting males to mate with them."

The researchers are particularly interested in the most communicative of the whales, which vocalised the majority of the 21 different messages and accounted for 294 of the 802 recorded codas.

"It may be interesting to learn more about this particular individual. All we know is that it is 9.3 metres long, which makes it difficult to determine its gender. We do not know whether it belongs to the same group as the other sperm whales we recorded, so it is really difficult to know what it was saying. Perhaps it is a matriarch telling its group where to go," said Wahlberg.

Humans first encountered sperm whale vocalisations -- not to be confused with whale song -- during World War II. Submarines played a new and crucial role in naval warfare, and considerable resources and efforts were invested into finding ways to locate enemy submarines, which led to the development of sonar technology. Sailors would sometimes mistake a high number of underwater sounds for submarines, which would later turn out to be whales.

The incredible world of sperm whales

Like elephants, sperm whales live in matriarchal groups. When young males reach maturity, they leave the group and travel north to the waters around Iceland and northern Norway, where they remain until they have doubled in size. Once they have grown sufficiently, they make their way back to the tropics to find a female to mate with.

Sperm whales are capable of making the loudest sounds of any animal on the planet. They use these sounds for echolocation and as a form of communication.

The sperm whale is the world's largest predator, and it can track squids up to a kilometre away using echolocation.

The above is reprinted from materials provided by University of Southern Denmark